April 24, 2006

Sask commits $1.8M to advance more environmentally friendly oil recovery process

Saskatchewan is investing $1.8 million in new funding over three years to help the Petroleum Technology Research Centre (PTRC) develop a more environmentally sensitive and energy-efficient enhanced oil recovery process for heavy oil reservoirs.

The $9.6-million, three-year Joint Implementation of Vapour Extraction (JIVE) project will use the funds to advance the development, demonstration and evaluation of vapour extraction technology, a process that uses solvent gases instead of steam to extract heavy oil. This reduces CO2 emissions and cuts fresh water use by over 90% compared to other steam extraction methods.

The PTRC is collaborating with industry partners Canadian Natural Resources, Husky Energy and Nexen. The three companies will be providing over $3.6 million in cash and in-kind contributions over the duration of the project, with at least another $250,000 coming from other industry investors.

The research will be conducted by Saskatchewan Research Council, University of Regina and the Alberta Research Council. The partners will pool their intellectual property and have it managed by the PTRC. Saskatchewan's Industry and Resources department and the federal department of Western Economic Development have each previously contributed $375,000 to the PTRC for research equipment to be used in this project.

Provincial Industry and Resources Minister Eric Cline said the funding puts the groundbreaking clean technology on the fast track toward commercialization. "The PTRC is establishing a strong track record in commercializing new technologies because of the co-operation it gets from industry partners. Joint ventures like the JIVE project create a unique opportunity to extend test results far beyond the confines of any laboratory," he explained, adding, "This new technology not only increases the amount of oil we can recover, it also decreases our impact on the environment."

PTRC executive director Mike Monea pointed out that the JIVE project has already gathered worldwide attention. Vapour extraction technology is being looked at worldwide as an economically appealing way of recovering oil. The recovery rate using this process ranges from 20 to 50%, which is an average of two to five times the current rate for heavy oil recovery. Moreover, because the technology uses no heat to recover the oil, it has the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions significantly.

More information is available from Jennifer Redston at Saskatchewan Industry and Resources, 306/787-1691.

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